Sanskrit Prefixes
उपसर्गाः (upasargāḥ)

Chapter

6

Skill Level

Intermediate

Language

Sanskrit explained in English

Overview

Hope you have understood and learnt 1. Grammatical Numbers, Persons & Genders. 2. Cases & Tenses,  3. Word Forms, 4. Word classes and 5. Sanskrit Suffixes in chapter 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 respectively.

‘Sanskrit Prefixes’ is the sixth chapter in this series. From the name of the chapter, it is quite obvious that we will learn about prefixes in Sanskrit language.

Learning this chapter will help you:

Who is the chapter for?

Sanskrit Prefixes
उपसर्गाः (upasargāḥ)

In Sanskrit, prefixes are known as उपसर्गाः (upasargāḥ). The work of prefixes is to modify or change the meaning of a root. Roots are the most basic forms of all words in Sanskrit. Each root has a specific meaning and with a particular prefix, its meaning can be changed or modified.

In Sanskrit, there are a total of 22 prefixes. They are as follows:

प्र

परा

अप

सम्

अनु

अव

  निर्  

निस्

दुस्

दुर्

वि

आङ्

नि

अधि

अति

अपि

सु

उत्

अभि

प्रति

परि

उप

  

Prefixes in Sanskrit and their meanings along with examples are as follows:

1. प्र (pra): This prefix is often used to emphasize on the meaning of that particular root e.g. प्र + √नम्। (pra + √nam) अहं गुरुं प्रणमामि। (ahaṃ guruṃ praṇamāmi।) which means, “I am bowing to my teacher.”
Here, if we use the word, ‘नमामि’ (namāmi) it will simply mean that I am bowing to my teacher, but with the use of the prefix, the meaning is emphasized.

2. परा (parā): This prefix is often used to show the opposite of something e.g. परा + √जय्। (parā + √jay।) राजा युद्धे पराजयते। (rājā yuddhe parājayate।) This means, “The King loses the war.”
Here, the word, ‘जयते’ means wins by itself, but with the addition of the prefix, its meaning has changes to the opposite of wins, i.e. loses.

3. अप (apa): This prefix is often used in a negative shade or to tell that something is far away
e.g. अप + √कृ। (apa + √kṛ।) खलः अपकरोति। (khalaḥ apakaroti।) This means, “Baddie is doing a bad deed”. Here, the word, ‘करोति’ means doing, but with the addition of the prefix, it got a negative tone and meant, ‘doing a bad deed’.
Another example will be अप + √गम् (गच्छ्)। (apa + √gam (gacch)।) बालकः अपगच्छति। (bālakaḥ apagacchati।) This means, “The boy is going away”. Here, the word, ‘गच्छति’ means going, but with the addition of the prefix, the word means going far away or going away.

4. सम् (sam): This prefix is often used to show being together or togetherness e.g. – त्रिवेणीसङ्गमे गङ्गा यमुना सरस्वती च सङ्गच्छन्ते। (triveṇīsaṅgame gaṅgā yamunā sarasvatī ca saṅgacchante।) which means, “Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati (Rivers) confluence in Triveni Sangam.”
Here, the word, ‘गच्छन्ति’ means ‘going’ on its own, but with the addition of the prefix, it means to go together or in the above mentioned example, confluence.

5. अनु (anu): This prefix is often used to show following something or someone e.g. अनु +√कृ। (anu +√kṛ।) वानरः बालिकायाः क्रियाः अनुकरोति। (vānaraḥ bālikāyāḥ kriyāḥ anukaroti।), which means, “The monkey is repeating/imitating the girl’s actions.”
Here, the word, ‘करोति’ means does by itself, but with the addition of the prefix, it means to repeat or to imitate.

6. अव (ava): This prefix is often used to indicate down e.g. The word, ‘अवतार’ (avatāra) means a form of a particular god or goddess that is taken to save humanity from different asuras. In this word, the prefix अव (ava) means down and it is used as the deities come down from heaven to Earth in their forms.

7. निर् (nir): This prefix is often used for showing that something is far. e.g. – निर् + √गम् (गच्छ्)। (nir + √gam (gacch)।) सः निर्गच्छति। (saḥ nirgacchati।) This means, “He is going away.”
Here the word, ‘गच्छति’ means going, but with the addition of the prefix, it means going someplace far or going away.

8. निस् (nis): This prefix is often used in the sense of out e.g. निस्सरति। (nissarati।) सर्पः गृहात् निस्सरति। (sarpaḥ gṛhāt nissarati।) This means, “The snake is coming out of the house.”
In the stated example, the word, ‘सरति’ means ‘goes’, however with the addition of the prefix ‘निस्’, it means going out or coming out.

9. दुस् (dus): This prefix is often used to indicate a negative meaning e.g. दुस् + √कृ। (dus + √kṛ।) अस्माभिः न दुष्करणीयम्। (asmābhiḥ na duṣkaraṇīyam।) This means, “We mustn’t do bad deeds.”
In the stated example, the word, ‘न करणीयम्’ means should not be done by itself, but when the prefix is added, it means, ‘bad deeds should be not done’.

10. दुर् (dur): This prefix is often used to indicate hardness or difficulty e.g. – दुर् + √लभ्। (dur + √labh।) The word, ‘दुर्लभ’ means that something is hard to attain, The word, ‘लभ’ means to attain and the prefix adds to the meaning, making the meaning, ‘hard to attain’.

11. वि (vi): This prefix is often used to show opposition to a meaning or to enhance the meaning e.g. – विदेशः (videśaḥ)। This means, ‘foreign land’ or any other country than one’s own. The word, ‘देशः’ means a country or one’s own country and the addition of the prefix makes the opposite of the word as, ‘a foreign country’.
Another example would be वि + √जय्। (vi + √jay।) नृपः युद्धे विजयते (nṛpaḥ yuddhe vijayate)। This means, ‘The King is winning in the war’. Here, the word, ‘जयते’ simply means to win, but with the addition of the prefix, the meaning has been enhanced.

12. आङ् (āṅ): This prefix is often used to indicate opposite meaning or from and till e.g. आ + √गम् (गच्छ्)। (ā + √gam (gacch)।) छात्रः विद्यालयात् गृहम् आगच्छति। (chātraḥ vidyālayāt gṛham āgacchati।) This means, “The student has come home from school”. Here, the word, ‘गच्छति’ means ‘goes’ by itself, but with the addition of the prefix, the meaning has turned opposite, to mean ‘to come.’
The word, ‘आजन्म’ (ājanma) means from birth. The word, ‘जन्म’ means birth and the addition of the prefix has caused the word to mean, ‘from birth.’
The word, ‘आमरण’ (āmaraṇa) means, ’till death’. Here, the word, ‘मरण’ means death and with the addition of the prefix, the word means, ’till death.’

13. नि (ni): This prefix is often used in the sense, ‘down’ e.g. – नि + √पत् (ni + √pat) वृक्षात् फलं निपतति। (vṛkṣāt phalaṃ nipatati।) This means, “The fruit falls down from the tree.”
Here, the word, ‘पतति’ means falling and with the addition of the prefix, the meaning has become, ‘falling down’.

14. अधि (adhi): This prefix is often used in the sense, ‘above’ e.g. – The word, ‘अध्यात्मा’ means the supreme soul. Here, with the addition of the prefix, the meaning is ‘the soul that is above all’ or the supreme soul.

15. अति (ati): This prefix is often used to show the excess of something e.g. – The word, ‘अतिवाद’ means a fight or an argument. Here, the word, ‘वाद’ can mean conversation or talk, but when it becomes too much, it is an argument, as indicated by the prefix.

16. अपि (api): This prefix is often used in the sense, ‘also’.

17. सु (su): This prefix is often used to express a positive tone in the word e.g. – The word, ‘सुकृत्’ (sukṛt), this means, “Pious”. Here, with the addition of the prefix, the word has got a positive shade and means, ‘pious’ as in ‘doer of good’.

18. उत् (ut): This prefix is often used in the sense, ‘up’ or ‘above’ e.g. – उत् + √पत्। (ut + √pat।) वानरः सर्वत्र उत्पतति। (vānaraḥ sarvatra utpatati।) This means, “The monkey is jumping everywhere.” The word, ‘पतति’ means ‘falling’ by itself, but when the prefix is added, it literally means, ‘falling up’ but its meaning is, ‘jumping’.

19. अभि (abhi): This prefix is often used in the sense, ‘towards’ e.g. अभि + √गम् (गच्छ्)। (abhi + √gam (gacch)।) बालिका वृक्षं अभिगच्छति। (bālikā vṛkṣaṃ abhigacchati।) This means, “The girl is going towards the tree.” Here, the word, ‘गच्छति’ means is ‘going’ by itself, but with the addition of the prefix, it means, ‘to go towards’.

20. प्रति (prati): This prefix often is used in the sense, ‘towards’ similar to the prefix, ‘अभि’. It is also used in a reciprocating sense e.g. प्रति + उत् + √तर् (prati + ut + √tar)। शिक्षकः प्रश्नं पृष्ट्वा छात्रः प्रत्युत्तरति। (śikṣakaḥ praśnaṃ pṛṣṭvā chātraḥ pratyuttarati।) This means, “After the teacher asks his question to the student, he answers him.”
Here, with the addition of the prefix, it means, ‘answers in return’.

21. परि (pari): This prefix is often used in the sense, ‘around’ e.g. परि + √वर्त्। (pari + √vart।) The word, ‘परिवर्तनम्’ is formed from the prefix and root mentioned previously and means change. The word, ‘वर्त्’ means to be, so the word, literally means, to be in a state of moving around or revolution which figuratively means change.

22. उप (upa): This prefix is often used in the sense, ‘towards’ e.g. उप + √कृ। (upa + √kṛ।) सज्जनः सर्वान् उपकरोति। (sajjanaḥ sarvān upakaroti।) This means, “The pious person helps everyone”. Here, the word, ‘करोति’ means ‘does’ by itself, but with the addition of the prefix, it means doing something towards everyone or for everyone, which can become helping everyone.

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